By the end of October, we all realize winter has really come to stay. I just hope we have an early spring to offset it. Everyone out here is hunkered in and keeping busy doing the usual things done all winter anyway. I guess something like the whole world pretty much ending, won’t really affect us much until spring. The shock is there, but not really sinking in for us. Once everyone is out of fuel and some food items, then it will start hitting and sinking in
. If it had been spring or summer and easy for the town folk to just hike out here, it would have been much different. Now, it is delayed a bit and maybe soaking in a small amount at a time. No internet, no radio except short wave and few of those left to listen to, also. We have to remember to be alert to anyone showing up with the intent to take what we have, but so far, nothing has happened like that. I am afraid we will become too complacent and be sorry later.
I start setting a trapline starting from the hill across a small gully from my place. I keep checking the snares around the old gut pile, but the ravens, jays and small animals have really been working on it. I only have a few traps and snares, so make a very small trapline I can check often.
I have limited success and move my line a bit farther north. I want to keep as many animals around as possible for the future, also. Pal is nice and helpful in harness, dragging my small sled when we do the trapline. I snowshoe the trails, he pulls along behind me. I carry my rifle when I go, in case I need it. I have a piece of duct tape over the barrel and one on the stock to replace it with if I have to fire it. The tape keeps snow and debris out of the barrel. Traveling on snowshoes is a good way to fall often and it is best to not have to clean the gun after each fall before being able to use it. Even snow coming off branches overhead can clog a barrel, besides going down the back of an unsuspecting neck. Noah comes along sometimes so he can learn how to trap and how to take care of the animals once they are harvested.
On days it has snowed quite a bit, he is handy breaking trails. We have both gotten much better on the snowshoes and now will be able to hike over to see Rose and Kara any time we want to. We are doing quite well at keeping the house fire banked enough to be gone several hours without the house freezing up.
In the evenings, we skin and stretch the hides and then work on softening and tanning the hides from previous days work.
Soon, we have enough to start making some hats, mitts and the baby bunting I want to make for Shari. So I start out by laying out skins and drawing on the skin side with a piece of charred wood from the stove. Once I have the pattern the way I want it, I hold the hide so I won’t cut fur as well as skin and cut out the pieces with a razor knife. I have a large box of dental floss I use for skin sewing. It is the best for that. The needles I have are hide sewing needles, with 3 sides at the point, so they slice through the leather.
The bunting goes together quite fast and I use some tanned strips of leather I have to make the ties to fasten it together. We plan on taking it over in the next few days sometime, if the weather holds around zero and not snowing hard.
When we get around the next day, it is fairly clear and no wind, so we decide just to do it today. We hurry through caring for the animals and gear up with the snowshoes. Pal is so used to the harness and sled pulling, he is standing by the sled as we come out the door. So we take him also.
The walk over doesn’t take very long and we are congratulating ourselves on how great we are doing on the snowshoes. Pal suddenly growls and tries to lunge in front of me. The sled holds him back some and almost knocks me down. A large wolf breaks cover right in front of us, heading straight for Pal. Noah has his handgun out and firing before the wolf has a chance to even touch Pal, but I was afraid he would get bit and grabbed his harness trying to hold him.
Pal finally settles down as he sees the wolf is no longer a threat. We load the carcass on the sled and Pal is happy to drag the wolf the rest of the way. I will boil the carcass up for chicken feed, they do not mind where the protein comes from. I do the same with most of the animals we trap. I try to waste nothing. I think by boiling it, maybe the chickens won’t get the taste for raw flesh and peck on each other. Also maybe head off any type of disease.
After we get to the driveway to Rose and Kara’s, we decide to stop there just in case Will and Shari are there for the baby. It is a good thing we do, as they are. Jeremy is watching their place for them and they are staying at Rose’s. Shari is very uncomfortable and totally ready for this to be over with. She is still helping out and even does some hiking up and down the hill to Kara’s. She is in very good condition, so it should be an easy birth, I hope.
While we are visiting, she gets up every few minutes and walks around. Rose and I look at each other and she nods. We think Shari’s wish is about to be granted. She loves the little bunting and shows me some of the other things she has on hand for the baby. Most are at home, but enough here to see her through a couple of days. I made the bunting big enough it will probably last the whole winter as the baby grows. The outside fur is marten and the inside fur is Arctic hare. The baby should need no other cover except in extreme cold. They can carry B B wherever they go without worrying it will get too cold.\
As Shari paces through the kitchen her water breaks. She has not realized she is in labor. She cleans herself up and apologizes for the mess as we mop. We are laughing by now and tell her soon she will see what the Bubble Bump actually is, or B B as we have been calling it.
She continues pacing, after the contraction is over. This is the best thing she can do, so we all walk with her and talk. We tell jokes and keep her laughing which really isn’t too good in a contraction, so we have to pay attention. Rose has a bed set up in the office that used to be her Mom’s room. Everything else is cleared out and it has a bed and a chair in the room. She used a filing cabinet as a small dresser so it wouldn’t take up much space but give Shari a place to keep clothes.
For a first baby, this one seems to be in a hurry. Shari finally decides she has walked as much as she can, so we let Will help her into bed and prepare her for giving birth. They have a pad on the bed to make it easier to clean up later. There is a tote set up with a pad and soft blankets in it to place the baby in. Everyone scrubs up very well and puts on long sleeved shirts over whatever they are wearing. Rose has some masks used for painting and we use them over our noses and mouths. We look like a comedy routine for backwoods childbirth. There is water heated on the wood stove, although I never figured why boiling water was always called for, no one scalds anything during a birth.
Soon most of us stay out in the living room. Kara and I talk about how we are going to keep our woodsheds filled, after there is no gas for chainsaws. We all have swedesaws, so it looks like we will start cutting each summer as soon as possible to fill the area emptied over the winter and still try to keep at least 2 years ahead.
It seems like only a short time later, but probably not, to Shari, when we hear the sound only a newborn makes and a soft thud of Will hitting the floor. He lasted longer than I thought he would, when he was already green looking when they went in the bedroom. Soon, the first cry is joined by a 2nd cry. Oh my, sounds like twins. I should have made 2 buntings. Of course, it only takes a little while to make one and I can use this one as a pattern.
When Rose comes out, she looks almost as bad as Will. No one had expected twins. Shari says they are common in her family and her ex was actually a distant cousin. She had twin siblings also, but only one had survived to adulthood. Then he was killed in Iraq.
The new twins were fraternal, a boy and a girl. I guess that is one way to help repopulate the world, have them in groups. I was never one of those women that ooohed and aaaahed over babies, but these 2 were special babies and they seemed to bring out the latent maternal streak I never knew I had. Shari was tired but in good spirits and happy when we finally started home.
We were away a bit longer than I planned when we left that morning. I was certainly glad the weather was not very cold, only around zero. When we get home, the houses are both cool but not cold, so it doesn’t take long to have the fires going again, warming them up. The wolf is brought in to thaw and skin. Noah offers to do that while I cut out another bunting. It is very late by the time I have it done. Noah was already gone for the night, to the cabin. He had his meals with me and helped out around the place during the days, but nights he stayed over there. He only built a fire in the evening to take the main cold off the cabin and let it die out during the night. He didn’t want to cut into my stock of firewood too much. We had enough for 2 houses for the winter, but did not want to use it all. Whenever he went along on the trapline, he picked up dead wood along the way and loaded the sled Pal pulled.
The puppies from the dog Roman and Thad brought out were big enough now to start simple training and Noah wanted to get 2 of them. He thought they and Pal could be a small working team and be a big help on hauling things. So 2 days later when we went back over to deliver the new bunting, we brought home 2 rowdy puppies. Pal was not amused. He did a good job teaching them not to chase the cats, although the cats did a fair bit of training on their own. He also let them know outdoors was for the bathroom. I think he housebroke them himself.
I made very small harnesses out of scrap rope pieces and when he was harnessed up, they also were harnessed up. At first, they ran along beside him and wanted to play. He nipped them into staying behind him. I started tying them to each side of the sled, so they would stay back and soon they thought of it as play and trotted along nicely or walked along depending on what Pal was doing. They even learned Gee and Haw and Stop. I baked some dog treats and would give them and Pal a treat each time the pups did well. I think bribery is underated.
The first trip we made over to Rose’s with the 2 pups in their harnesses, everyone was surprised and amazed we had trained them so well so quickly. However, Pal was the real trainer of pups. When the rest of the puppies came tumbling out to see them, Pal soon set them straight, and they all sat very quietly around our team. Roman and Thad decided they wanted to train the ones they had left and see if the mother was used to a harness, also. She looked like a sled dog should. Rose had some old harnesses she had picked up at the Transfer Station several years ago, so the guys decided to try it out. They went down and got the harnesses and found one that fit the female.
She stood still to be harnessed so they knew she was familiar with it. Rose also had some skis under the shop building that she had picked up, the same way. She said anyone wanting to try skijoring could give them a try if they figured out a way to fasten the skis as they had no bindings on them.
We needed to make some harnesses and tug lines if we wanted to learn how to run dogs. I guess this would give us all something to learn and do in winters now. That would be the time of year that it is easiest to travel in Alaska. No bugs and the ground is solid and so is the water. Well, unless there is overflow or a current under the snow on ice making an open lead.
If we started using dogs, we would need to also start making sleds. I know some of the sled makers use the small black spruce found only in permafrost areas for the frames as they are so fine grained they are extremely strong and flexible when crafted. I think the caribou skin from the caribou Al gave us, will need to be tanned and made into harnesses. The lower legs can be made into boots, and maybe I should see about making boots from the lower legs of the last 2 bears we got, also.
I will have to keep boots in mind each time we are skinning, now, so we can shape the hides right and not have to do so much sewing. Will and Shari were ready to go home with the twins. They were so happy to have 2 buntings now, Shari cried a bit and laughed, saying she was so happy. They were still using the little 6 wheel ATV and bundled babies and Shari in it so they were like a cocoon. After they left, we headed back home, also.
Roman and Thad loaded up our sled with some of the cans of food they stocked up on during the summer. They said that was Noahs, anyway and since he was eating at my place, it would help on food supplies. They didn’t want to overload our little team, so let me know there was also a couple bags of rice here for us, and more flour and sugar. I was surprised but it would be nice having even more supplies on hand.
I think this stuff should be stored in the cabin Noah is staying in. If there were ever a house fire, I would like to know we had supplies somewhere else to depend on, and maybe some in the ice house. I still had several empty totes and a few barrels with lids we could store food in and keep rodents and larger animals out. When I talk it over with Noah, he agrees, so when we get home we start filling totes and barrels in the ice house first and a few items in the cabin.
Most of the cans are freeze dried storage foods, so they were very light and there was a lot of them. I was surprised how many they sent over and our tiny team pulled so well. Noah was in the habit of using a large backpack every time we left the house, with some survival gear in it in case we got caught out in bad weather. He now pulled out a small box of chocolate candy.
He placed it in my hands and said, “You know I love you, don’t you?”
Now that was a surprise, the candy as well as the declaration. I knew we got along very well and he made my insides mush every time he looked at me, but love? Well, yeah, when he wasn’t in a room, it felt empty and I looked forward to seeing him every day. We worked well together and neither of us treated the other as anything but a partner in our jobs and chores. The thought of not having him around hurt to think about, so I think that probably means I love him too.
I am still staring at the box of chocolates in my hands and he is probably thinking I am really strange. I look up into his eyes and he has the most loving look in his eyes that I have ever seen in my life. Oh those eyes. They have been my downfall from the first day I met him.
Still looking into his eyes, I slowly reach up and give him a soft kiss. The next instant, I am in a bear hug and the breath almost out of me from the steel bands around me as he is kissing me. He suddenly steps back and even maybe blushes a little bit.
“I better not do that or we won’t be stopping any time soon,” he says and heads on out the door to the little cabin.
Well, this has certainly been quite a day. I set the box of chocolates on the table and stoke the fire. I think I will go to bed a bit earlier this evening and maybe do a lot of thinking.
I have never considered getting married again. The first time was enough to sour a person on that institution for life. However, right now, if Noah asked me, I would say Yes in a heartbeat. What an idea. Who would perform the ceremony and where would it be registered? Does he want a family or will the pets be enough family for us? Wow, he hasn’t asked and I am already planning a future together. So much for going to bed early. Now the thoughts going through my head are making it impossible to sleep.
After tossing and turning a while, I get up and light a small propane light. I pull out some of the furs we have tanned and start a Trapper hat. I am not sure who it will be for, so add a piece of elastic in back so it can fit anyone. This is from the first fox caught on the old gut pile. I use some of the leather I had on hand and lined it with Arctic hare fur. Hmmm, maybe I should make some to use as Christmas gifts this year.
Pretty soon there is a small tap at the door. Pal isn’t growling, so I open the door. It is Noah. He comes in and sits down across from me.
“Can’t sleep either? I am sorry if I am the reason and I hope I didn’t mess up our relationship by speaking too soon,” he said.
“Well, it was a surprise but a most pleasant one. I have had some thoughts on the subject for a while, but didn’t have a clue you did, also.”
A slow smile spreads across his face as he leans toward me. “Really? You really have? You sure fooled me.”
We sit and talk for an hour or so, then he lightly kisses me on the forehead and heads back out the door. I again stoke up the fire and go to bed. This time, I fall asleep almost as soon as I hit the pillow. We have decided nothing, and didn’t even talk about where we were heading. But it feels okay and it feels right. We will take one day at a time and see where it leads.
I was afraid we would be awkward with each other, the next morning, but no, it was more relaxed and felt like we had known each other forever. Our days fell into routine and we enjoyed each others company very much. We managed to work through any problem that arose without any yelling, name calling or sarcasm.
As Thanksgiving Day approached, we decided on what we would contribute to the dinner being planned over on Rose’s place. The actual dinner would be at Kara’s as her house was set up better to serve and eat dinner for large groups.
I had a supply of dried sweet potatoes and would make a casserole to take. Also some rolls and maybe a pie or two. Depending on what we could put on the sled easily to pull over without mashing or spilling. We packed some of the fresh eggs in a container so if any broke, they wouldn’t mess up the backpack, and Noah would carry them over.